By Martin Matishak - 05/08/14 05:29 PM EDT
Republican senators on Thursday praised the House Armed Services Committee for voting to preserve the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft despite the Air Force’s push to retire the fleet.
Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) called the panel’s “overwhelming” bipartisan vote to delay the fleet’s retirement a “significant interim victory for our ground troops.”
“We applaud the committee members for honoring our commitment to provide our troops the best possible close air support so they can accomplish their missions and return home safely,” they said in a statement.
Many lawmakers, though, question whether other aircraft can fill the A-10’s role and often note its popularity with ground troops.
In its marathon markup of the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday the Armed Services panel voted 41-20 to incorporate a measure that would delay the A-10 fleet’s retirement for at least a year and require a Pentagon study on whether other planes could provide troops with adequate close air support.
The four senators have been staunch defenders of the A-10, rejecting a compromise proposal from committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) earlier this week that would have put the aircraft into "Type-100" storage. McKeon’s plan would have allowed the 283-plane fleet to be reactivated easily if and when the government’s fiscal outlook improved.
“We look forward to addressing this issue in the Senate Armed Services Committee and working with members of both parties and both chambers to ensure the A-10 can continue to protect our ground forces,” the GOP senators said Thursday.